After the American Civil War, the South still needed to rebuild itself since it suffered much damage. The Reconstruction 1865 -1877 was the era after the Civil War that the Union tried to transform the South to their liking and bring the South back to the Union. Reconstruction brought many changes to the South. President Lincoln proposed that if 10 of voters in a Southern state took an oath to pledge allegiance to the Union then the pledgers would be pardoned and the Southern state could begin forming a new state government that outlawed slavery in 1865. Proclamation of Amnesty Congress proposed that Reconstruction should wait until half of the Southern state's voters pledged loyalty to the Union. The Wade Davis Bill was proposed to Congress by Senator Benjamin F Wade and Representative Henry Winter Davis in February 1864 it stated that half the voters should take the oath and the state should give the state to vote before Reconstruction.
Kate Chopin speaks of the various shades of love that exist between people in her short story titled Desiree's Baby. More often than not love is conditional, unconditional love is extremely hard to come by. In this story, the most significant divider is race. It is set in the pre 20th century America in a French family setting Blacks are treated as being lesser human beings who are unworthy of love and association. Chopin brings the issue of conditional versus unconditional love as a matter of perspective. Madame Valmonde loved her adopted child Desiree without regard to her ancestral history and even believes that she had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection seeing that she was without child of flesh. On the other hand, Armand's love for the same girl is threatened by the even the slightest possibility that may have black blood in her.
The primary theme that Chopin communicates is that racial divisions are ludicrous and are based on skin-deep perceptions instead of the love for individuals human attributes. Armand views people as a property that he can possess and dispose of at his will. He falls in love with Desiree because of the notion that Whiteness equals beauty and acceptance and by this thinking upholds racism and sexuality. The time in which the story is set is one in which the Black people regarded as being of lower human value were considered as slaves and women were referred to as the weaker gender. Armand unlike his father wields strong desire for power and domination and mistreats his slaves. Desiree confesses this fact to Madame Valmonde saying that since the child's birth he had grown softer and was no longer treating his slaves with contempt and prejudice. This prejudice was shown to the slaves because he owned them. Life had given Armand the choice of getting whatever he wished for and this is expressed in his instant love and want for Desiree despite having known her for a long time. He seeks her hand in marriage and begins to mistreat her afterward. He gives gifts to Desiree at the beginning of their marriage but takes them away in a manner that indicates that she has lost value. She was still the same person with whom Armand had fallen in love but after the birth of their child, feels ashamed of having married someone who could be Black and begins to disrespect her. He starts ignoring her. At first, her beauty had charmed its way into his heart that Armand thought the reason for her adoption was due to the poverty of her parents. However, when his child is born with dark skin he believes that Desire's parents were of not only the lower economic class but also Black descent. This intersectionality between classism and race places Desiree at the lash of Armand's shame and contempt. Perspective comes out of the story as the primary distinguishing factor regarding love Desiree is the central character around whom all events in the story take place Chopin presents two sides of love one that is skin deep while the other regards a person for the moral qualities that he or she has as a human being Madame Valmonde is Desiree's foster mother. She adopted her without considering the details of her mysterious past. She was a beautiful child whose meeting Valmonde interpreted to have been instigated by beneficent providence.
Monsieur Desiree found her in a shadow created by a stone pillar with the former symbolizing her mysterious and uncertain past while the pillar indicated the reliable support and love that the Valmondes would show to her They treated her as their daughter and introduced her to a life of wealth and privilege. The Valmondes may have chosen to interpret the presence of an unclaimed baby as a sign of ill fate but instead, decide to believe that it was a blessing rather than a curse. Armand, on the other hand, is faced with the same situation regarding a similar question of the girl whose past was mysterious and he chooses her only due to her affiliation to the wealthy Valmondes and her skin-deep beauty and Whiteness but fails to develop unconditional love. He interprets his association with a person who could be black as a curse and something that brought shame. The relationship between Armand and Desire reveals the kind of misjudgments and irony that existed during the period of slavery with regards to the color of the skin. Desire is a beautiful woman who is innocent and good at heart(Chopin 1888 -1890). She is kind and sees the world from the vantage point of innocence. Armand falls in love with her because of her beauty and subconsciously because of her White skin color. There is no indication of his love for her in any other way apart from the surface level affection. Armand comes from a wealthy family of privilege and he is used to getting whatever he wants. Therefore he woos Desiree by offering her material gifts. However, the birth of Desiree s baby marks the turning point of this love because he thinks less of her thinking that she belonged to the lesser race Chopin1890. It is ironical that Armand feels ashamed having married Desire given her apparent Black race affiliation while he goes ahead to have an affair with La Blanche whose heritage is established as being black Desire despite her innocent view of the world becomes a victim of sexism and racial assumption from her husband which due to her immense love for him makes her shameful of having been classified into a lesser race. In a letter to Madame Valmonde Desire equates being black with unhappiness and she, therefore, wanted her mother to convince everyone that she was White to avert the sorrow Chopin 1891.
In an argument with Armand she points out that her skin was fairer than his to which she gets the response that it was as white as La Blanche's whose racial affiliation had been established as being Black. The biggest irony of all is revealed in the end when he burns everything related to Desire and the baby thinking that they were a curse from God. After instructing the slaves to put everything including the baby's clothes and the expensive gifts given to Desiree during their courtship he obtains letters from her biological mother who had died earlier Chopin 1892. It is revealed that she belonged to the race that he had treated as being inferior all along. It turns out that Desire had been a victim of his chauvinism classism and racial prejudice. Kate Chopin provides a clear scenario depicting racial discrimination as being nonsensical and based on fragile realities that cause massive suffering to its victims. Desire is judged and classified as being the one of a lesser race because of her mysterious past while La Blanche is grouped into the same category due to the establishment of her apparent Blackness despite her physical features indicating otherwise. Armand blames the others for their fault and treats them as a curse while ironically he is rejecting his own identity. Armand is of Black descent but had been shown immense love and care and treated as an equal to the other privileged people in the society. The end of the story reveals that the reason for Armand's father's open-mindedness in the treatment of his slaves was because he knew the true identity of his son and gave him unconditional love. Armand in his cruelty fails to offer the same and ends up losing his family that and the love of Desiree who had been innocent the whole time.